What is animal happiness?

Laura E. Webb*, Ruut Veenhoven, Jes Lynning Harfeld, Margit Bak Jensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Today, we see a growing concern for the quality of life of nonhuman animals and an accompanying call for viable means of assessing how well animals thrive. Past research focused on minimizing negatives such as stress, while more recent endeavors strive to promote positives such as happiness. But what is animal happiness? Although often mentioned, the term lacks a clear definition. With recent advances in the study of animal emotion, current interest into positive rather than negative experiences, and the call for captive and domesticated animals to have good lives, the time is ripe to examine the concept of animal happiness. We draw from the human and animal literature to delineate a concept of animal happiness and propose how to assess it. We argue that animal happiness depends on how an individual feels generally—that is, a typical level of affect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-76
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy Of Sciences
Issue number1
Early online date22 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • affect balance
  • animal welfare
  • human happiness
  • typical level of affect


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